The breakthrough of Esports has turned heads in the sports world. Although its roots trace back to the early 2000s, Esports coverage has vastly increased with tournaments being broadcasted on YouTube, Twitch and even mainstream channels such as ESPN. More importantly, the development of competitive gaming as a sport has garnered attention on a collegiate level.
Fairfield University has taken its first steps toward building a program here on campus, especially after finishing construction of the Gaming Lab in the RecPlex last summer. Members of the gaming club could now meet in person and play on cutting edge technology.
President of the Gaming Club, Eryiel Mascardo ‘21, helped to give a little more insight on just how much the program has changed in a few years. “When I was a freshman, the gaming club wasn’t running,” said Mascardo. “The program was reinstated my sophomore year.”
When she became president this year, she not only fulfilled her duties towards the casual players, but ended up shouldering new responsibilities for Esports. Mascardo advises recruitment, creates practice dates, puts together competitive teams, and sees herself as a general liaison between Fairfield and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“The Esports program started a year ago,” she recounts, “but it didn’t really take off until this year.” The program, like many others, had its fair share of struggles with COVID. Recruiting others has become more difficult with restrictions and possible members going remote. Luckily, practices already utilize technology and many teams have been able to set up scrimmages with other schools to practice.
The program has gained attention outside of campus as well. “A lot of organizations have been reaching out to me and asking if we can compete in tournaments,” said Mascardo. Other schools hoping to get into the Esports world have even reached out.
“I definitely know one university has reached out to us and asked what kind of hardware we use. There is a wide range of universities in the Esports scene.”
Fairfield has a number of teams for games such as Overwatch, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros, League of Legends and FIFA. The Rocket League team grabbed a big win with a 3-1 victory over Marist College in the finals of the MAAC Invitational in early February. This six-team tournament included Siena College, Niagara University, Quinnipiac University and Rider University as well.
This victory was something that William Duffy ‘23, Matthew Baker ‘24 and Samuel Martin ‘24 were all chasing. This was the result of months of hard work they had been putting in since the fall after falling short in other tournaments.
“We started playing back in November for the EGF tournaments and then ended up losing to DePaul in a MAAC and Big East event,” said Baker. “This was the first tournament where we pushed it and ended with the win.”
Before this, the team struggled against Marist whenever they would face them. They had been playing against similarly matched competition and found themselves stuck. “It wasn’t until we were scrimming against higher level teams that we improved,” said Baker. “It helped to fix some of the communication errors we were having.”
With such a young team, the building of relationships and strengthening of teamwork would take time. “Marist has been playing for much longer than we have,” said Martin. “Maybe by about a whole year or two.”
They were eager for more as winning helps the team to get a spot in the college tournaments. The higher you climb the division, the more eyes you’ll get on your team and in the livestreams. Duffy expressed this hope to grow the audience both on and off of Fairfield’s campus as more opportunities present themselves in the EGF and beyond.
Students on campus can view these EGF tournaments online and tournaments of other games using the events tab on Life@Fairfield, searching egf.gg, or going to twitch.tv/officialegf.